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What are Integrated Supply Chains? Why Do They Matter?

Supply chains are the backbone of our global economy, bridging the gap between materials, products, and people. In this article, we explore what integrated supply chains are, how they work, and how new 5G technologies make it all possible.

What Are Integrated Supply Chains?

Integrated supply chains are supply chains designed to track and monitor all aspects of production and delivery through the use of advanced technology and data analysis.

Unlike traditional supply chains, integrated supply chains provide real-time visibility into the chain to uncover bottlenecks and inefficiencies quickly. Technologies like private 5G, ERP systems, and artificial intelligence enable seamless communication between suppliers, manufacturers, distributors, and customers. Integrated supply chains are just one example of how industry 4.0 is transforming the way we do business.

Loosely vs. Tightly Integrated Supply Chains

Tightly integrated supply chains provide close coordination and collaboration between all partners, while loose integration offers less. Integrated supply chains are considered tightly integrated since they use various technologies to collect data from the beginning of the chain to the end.

Before high-speed internet connections, tightly integrated supply chains required considerable effort and budget to design and maintain. Today, with ultra-low-latency private 4G/5G networks, cloud computing, and satellite communications, tight integration is more feasible, reliable and easier to implement.

While the technology behind integrated supply chains might sound complicated and expensive, supply chain tech is actually moving in the other direction. Artificial intelligence and cloud computing are now more affordable and easier to manage thanks to their productized design global scale.

Vertical and Horizontal Integration

Integrated supply chains often provide both horizontal and vertical integration. For example, a manufacturer that acquires their supplier of raw materials can integrate both ends of their supply chain into their enterprise network. This gives the acquiring company more control over its supply, cost of goods, and efficiency.

Conversely, a company could horizontally integrate with another company that operates on the same level of the chain, but in a different market. This strategy enables the company to increase its market share and diversify its product offerings.

Deciding how to integrate depends on your company’s goals. Whether you’re scaling up or out, integration provides various strategic benefits that help expand market share, reduce dependency, and improve profit margins. 

How To Design an Integrated Supply Chain

Integrated supply chains rely on multiple layers of different technology.zThese technologies vary depending on your environment, goals, and use cases. For example, a global car manufacturer might use 5G networks, IoT sensors, and AI to track the manufacturing and shipping process. 

Small sensors placed on each vehicle can let managers know how many vehicles are in production, and exactly where they are in the product line. Artificial intelligence can calculate their time to completion. On the distribution side, these same sensors can track the speed and position of cargo containers to estimate arrival times for dealerships accurately.

Enterprises can use all or some of these new technologies to achieve their supply chain goals. These technologies include:

  • Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) - A single software application used to track, manage, and integrate the supply chain with business functions.
  • Supply Chain Planning (SCP) - Systems that use live data to optimize inventory, schedules, and transportation routes
  • Cloud Computing - Enables companies to store and process data as well as access internal software remotely through Wi-Fi, 5G, or wired connections.
  • Blockchain - A newer technology that enables immutable and transparent record traceability across the chain
  • Private 5G Networks - Acts as the supply chain’s communication backbone by providing ultra-low latency high-speed connections to sensors, applications, and hardware.
  • Internet of Things Sensors (IoT) - Devices that collect a multitude of environmental data signals such as position, temperature, speed, humidity, and more. These sensors send data back to a server, where this data is processed into information.
  • Artificial Intelligence - Algorithms stored on servers that process raw data from IoT sensors into intelligence. These insights are shared with the company and can trigger automated responses for swift remediation of supply chain problems.

The Supply Chain Problem

As supply chains grow in size and complexity, enterprises search for a reliable and scalable way to manage their growing network. Enterprises often find that their commercial cellular solutions act as a bottleneck when building their integrated supply chain.

For example, public 5G services offer little to no assistance with data integration, and provide almost no insight into where your data goes, or how it’s used. These bottlenecks not only dramatically limit the effectiveness of an integrated supply chain model, but potentially put an enterprise’s intellectual property at risk. 

Lastly, data processing, automation, and orchestration can increase complexity across the supply chain, increasing inefficiencies and opening up vulnerabilities for supply chain attacks.

The Future of Integrated Supply Chains

Celona provides enterprises with their own seamless private 4G or 5G wireless solution designed for integrated supply chain operations. Through a robust and private 5G LAN architecture that mirrors the familiar Wi-Fi LAN framework, organizations maintain complete control over their cellular resources and data privacy across the supply chain while enjoying more predictable wireless coverage and deterministic connectivity for vital user devices and applications.

The 5G LAN solution integrates directly with your existing enterprise L2/L3 network architecture, allowing administrators to synchronize QoS across the enterprise from a cloud-based console. Behind the scenes, the Celona Edge O/S provides advanced traffic management for your service level objectives for each individual application or device group.

Celona 5G LANs can be deployed in a matter of hours, not days or months, directly integrating with your IP domain, QoS, and security structures already in place. Onboarding can be done alongside existing wireless and IT infrastructure, without interrupting business operations.

If you’re looking to strengthen your supply lines, Celona can help. Check out our network planner to estimate the size of your 5G LAN on private cellular spectrum, or test-drive Celona’s unique solution for yourself with a free trial.

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